Consumers in the euro-area lost more confidence in their immediate future in March than economists had predicted as the recession deepened its hold in most of the 17 nations of the currency bloc.
The index of consumer confidence in the eurozone rose to -23.5 from -23.6 according to the European Commission in Brussels today. Economists in the Bloomberg survey had forecast -23.2 and the Reuters poll had predicted -23.3.
The confidence reading has moved steadily lower over the past year as the economic prospects in the European Monetary Union (EMU) have worsened and unemployment has increased. The post 2008 crash low was -34.3 in March of 2009. From there it reached as high as -9.8 in November 2010 and -9.9 in June 2011. After last March's measure of -18.9 the index dropped to a low of -26.3 in December before recovering in the subsequent three months.
Economic activity in the EMU slipped to -0.6% in the fourth quarter of 2012 from -0.1% in the previous three months. It was the fifth straight and worst quarter of negative GDP. The last period of economic growth was 0.1% in the third quarter of 2011. The European Commission, the executive body of the European Union predicts the contraction will continue at -0.5% pace this year before the economy expands marginally in 2014.
Unemployment in the EMU has climbed 2.0% in less than two years from 9.9% in May 2011, the post 2009 low, to 11.9% in January and it is expected to continue rising.
Confidence in the individual countries of the monetary union varied in February from a high of 8.2 in Finland to -3.8 in Austria and -6.4 in Germany to -19.0 in Ireland, -28.5 in France, -33.4 in Spain, -35.8 in Italy, -44.8 in Cyprus, -53.0 in Portugal and at the bottom -71.4 in Greece
Chief Market Strategist